Tender As a Whisper

She’s three.  And she was acting three.

Pushing limits, listening selectively.

Being three.

I pled with her to please be a good listener.

She ignored me.  Looked past me.

At a loss for how to reach her, I reminded her that we treat the people we love with respect, and we show that by listening.

I questioned, “You love Mommy, don’t you?”

It was rhetorical, asked thoughtlessly.

She paused, turned, looked me straight in the eye, and replied, “no.”

She said no.

Her hazel eyes locked onto mine, waiting for a reaction.

I was frozen.  Paralyzed and shocked.

Who was this child?

This was the first time that she’ll say this to me.  It won’t be the last.

But, she’s three.

I counted. 1, 2, 3, how could she say that to me?

4, 5 6, how do I even respond to that?

7, 8, 9, 10…breathe, Nichole, just breathe…

I told her I was sorry to hear that because I loved her very much.

And I walked away.

And I breathed in and out.

Moments passed.  Three, maybe five.

She came to me.  Placed her hand ever-so-gently on my arm, and asked for a hug.

I pulled her close and breathed her in.

She said she was sorry.  She touched my cheek with her fingertips.  Tender as a whisper.

Those same hazel eyes locked onto mine.  She said she loved me.

In that moment, she was my baby again.

But, minutes before, all I saw were visions of her as a teenager.  Years of pushing and pulling.  Yelling and hugs.

She’s three.

I’m not ready for this yet.


  1. Lori inpursuitofmarthapoints.com

    You will have these moments, I think, far less than you fear.

    Very nice with the breathing, by the way.

  2. Sarah Www.freestylemom.com

    Holy shit. I’m scared.

  3. brandy

    Sigh. Only now as parents can we possibly understand how we could make our own mothers feel. Three, 13 or 30, she will always love you even if she doesn't say it.

  4. Krisi

    Nichole, I just have to tell you that I love the way you write. I felt like I was there with you and Katie while this was happening. I could picture the entire thing….the look on your face, the look on hers. You are so talented!

  5. kris prettyalltrue.com

    Oooooh . . . babe.

    Welcome to my world.

  6. 3 is really rough. I had forgotten but I was reminded, am continually reminded. I’m betting she wasn’t saying no to not loving you but trying out not having to agree with everything mom says. A thinking for herself moment.

  7. Nancy MacDonald

    Nichole, this is so wonderfully told! Most every mom has gone (or will go) through this and most every child has dished it out. I can remember clearly delivering this sentiment to my wonderful parents and I can remember even more clearly being on the receiving end! I LOVE how you handled it (perfect!) and I love how you told the story. Every nuance so perfectly captured. THANKS for sharing. Keep writing :-)

  8. Cheryl @ Mommypants mommypants.com

    Like a knife through the heart, isn't it? I've said the same thing, that it doesn't matter because I love him/her anyway. But it does matter, and it does hurt.

  9. Mandy tempestbeauty.com

    Beautiful :) The very best and the very worst moments side by side. You handled it perfectly!

  10. TamingInsanity

    Oh, man. You know it's coming but you're never prepared. There's no way to be prepared.

  11. Oh, geez. Appreciate the times she apologizes after saying it. Once a daughter's 12 or 13, she really thinks she means it … and sometimes Mommy thinks she does, too … and the apologies don't come until years later, when they realize what a little cuss they were to Mommy. The first time still really hurts, though, and I empathize completely.

  12. ksluiter

    i can't even imagine. I am still waiting for Eddie to be able to SAY "I love you". My heart will break in a million pieces the first time he tells me he doesn't. Sigh…

  13. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    It always comes back around, doesn't it?

  14. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    Yes, three appears to be all about testing limits.
    She never went through the terrible twos–I'm hoping the threes aren't especially rough to make up for that.
    And yes, rough indeed.

  15. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    Coming from you, one of the most wonderful writers I know, that compliment means the world.
    We miss you…when are you coming home again?

  16. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    Should I get cozy?

  17. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    Thank you so much for your incredibly kind words, Nancy.
    Yes, I dished it out to my mom. And now? It doesn't taste so good coming back to me.
    You have such a lovely relationship with your girls, it's hard to imagine them giving you a hard time! ;)

  18. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    Yes. Right through the heart.

    Though I know she was just testing me…seeing what kind of power she has over me, the fact that the thought was in her mind came as such a shock.

    I will continue loving her enough for both of us. In the end it will even out, right?

  19. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    Thank you, Mandy!
    Yes, that's a great way to describe it–side by side.

  20. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    Never, ever prepared.

  21. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    The waiting for her apology was one of the toughest parts.

    I know that the day will come when she will think that I'm the one who should apologize, probably for simply existing. I don't look forward to all of that teenage angst.
    Not one single bit.

  22. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    There is honestly nothing sweeter than hearing them tell you that they love you. Nothing.
    It won't be long now! :)

  23. Lori inpursuitofmarthapoints.com

    You will have these moments, I think, far less than you fear.

    Very nice with the breathing, by the way.

  24. Sarah Freestylemom.com

    Holy shit. I'm scared.

  25. kris prettyalltrue.com


    That is perhaps not the word I would use.


  26. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    Thank you, my friend, on both counts. :)

  27. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    Be afraid. Be very afraid. ;)

  28. Well, you have 4 to look forward to, then! I've already had death wished upon me, and hubby has been asked never to leave them alone with me again, because I am such a mean mommy. That's what I get for trying to enforce the "clean up after yourself" rule. ;) It WILL get better, but first, it will get worse…best of luck!

  29. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    Hey! You're supposed to be trying to make me feel better, not scaring the jeebus out of me! ;)

  30. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    Keep laughing, crazy woman.
    Who do you think is going to have to hear all about it, ad nauseaum?
    Oh, yeah, right…you!

  31. papoe2010

    I have a two year old and I've already seen the ways that she can test me. I fear a year from now, ten years from now, maybe even twenty… I tell myself that it's part of the mother-daughter relationship, but it still hurts. I recently overheard a seven year old girl tell her mom that she wished she would go away forever. It was funny to me, but sad at the same time. They never mean it. That needs to be our mantra as mom's of girls. "They don't really mean it." Or, as my husband says, "you have no choice but to love me."

  32. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    Your husband is a wise man. :)
    I fear that I'll need to remind myself for the next twenty (gulp!) years or so that she doesn't really mean it.
    I'll just keep reminding her (and myself) that I have enough for both of us.

  33. andrea (mamachaplin)

    once again, i almost forgot that i wasn't reading about my own daughter/life!
    i am terrified for the teenage years, so i'm just trying not to think about it right now & just enjoy her sassy pants 3-year-oldness.

  34. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    Those teenage years terrify me too.
    It's a good thing that they're sweet for the first few years…that's probably what will get us through the years when they're not!

  35. This was really good writing, Nichole.

    Wait till she's 5 and she says things like "Mom, I only love you, not Daddy"…in front of Daddy, or vice versa. They're testing their limits, they don't know the meaning of what they're saying. Honestly it doesn't bother me because I know that it's just a kid thing, and that he would be devastated if either one of us were gone.

  36. janelle

    Wow, most these comments scare me. Never really have dealt with any bad kid stage but maybe that’s because I don’t buy into that terrible two stuff (and yes I am a mom with a teen and a five year old). Aren’t we all challenging, no matter what the age? :)

  37. Adrienne nopointsforstyle.com


    Yes, Abbie gave me an early introduction to rejection-as-manipulation, too.

    Take heart; this was just a brief visit. You don't have to move in for awhile yet.

  38. Kate andthenkate.com

    I don't think we ever will be ready for this. That said, I'm finding that three is a…challenging age. I think we might get a respite for a few years before it starts up again. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

    Very nice post.

  39. Janice

    I had a day like that with Ava once and she broke my heart into a million pieces…she called me a monster! At least you counted…I started crying…big, fat sobs. Sending you a hug!

  40. Good self-control Nichole, I don't think I would have counted until 3 before turning around to hide my tears!!!
    Thanks for giving me a heads up too, life as I should expect it in about 18 months. Wow.

  41. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    Thank you so much, Kathryn.
    Katie has shown signs of parental preference already. Thank goodness it fluctuates back and forth, or else I'm fairly certain her father and I would have completely fallen apart by now.
    This parenting isn't easy, is it?

  42. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    Rejection by manipulation is exactly right.
    Behind my tough facade, I was a blubbery mess.
    She's going to own me in a few years. I'm in big trouble.
    Hold my hand?

  43. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    I will happily join you in that state of denial.
    I'll bring wine.

  44. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    Thank you for the hug. I could use it!
    As mothers of girls, we are in huge trouble, aren't we?

  45. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    Trust me, it wasn't easy.
    I kept telling myself not to let her see me cry. If I had folded this early, I know I'd be in big trouble for years to come.
    You have some time before you have to deal with this. Enjoy it. :)

  46. MamaOnDaGo mamaondago.blogspot.com/

    When did they go from 3 to 13 in a heartbeat? My 3 year old did something similar. I walked away and started tearing silently. She saw me and started crying. It was a mess. At the end, we hugged and made up. Inside I’m still tearing bc I caught a glimpse of what’s ahead.

  47. Suniverse thesuniverse.blogspot.com/

    I'm sorry that it hurt you so.

    My daughter is 13, and while I remember those times when she was little and said she hated me, I didn't mind them – I just figured she was going through whatever, pushing her boundaries, and I was o.k. with it.

    Now, I can feel her getting slightly angsty and it kills me. I try not to be clingy mom, but it's really, really hard. And, like you, I sometimes have to take some time before I react to remind myself that she's still a kid and still pushing those boundaries. It'll all be o.k. Right?

  48. Yuliya shesuggests.com/

    That made cry. Seriously. When my daughter does this I'm going to pretend she's having trouble understanding me because she's bilingual. Thank you for the advance warning.

  49. Tonya lettersforlucas.blogspot.com/

    Wow! I'm tearing up. What a beautiful and trying few moments.

    Pushing, pulling, yelling and hugs. No matter what the two of you may go through, may you always end like this.

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